Why haven't Atletico filled their Griezmann void?
Background image: Roberto, CC BY-SA 4.0
Antoine Griezmann was Atletico Madrid. The two served in duality, which was mutually beneficial for both parties. The French striker came in the year after Atletico Madrid won the La Liga title, with the expectation he’d be helping the team to more trophies soon. Believing the two-team curse had been lifted, ensuring Spanish league titles could belong to groups other than those named Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
Yet, the witchcraft was soon back in play as the duopoly was reinforced over the proceeding years. Griezmann for his efforts, won the Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup as well as the Spanish Super Cup with Los Colchoneros. More than the average player, but not the desires of a striker consistently in contention for Balon d’Or. Griezmann wanted more, so went to Barcelona where it’s easier to win trophies.
Having been the club’s top scorer every season he played for the club; Griezmann leaves a notable hole in the Atletico squad. Just who is going to score the goals now? Pulling the plug on a 20+ goal man comes with repercussions. Herewith that, Atletico don’t possess a consistent goal source.
Joao Felix is a case of putting all the eggs in a solitary basket. The Portuguese 20-year-old was highly rated after a superb debut season with Benfica. Fifteen goals across 26 games will bring attention, but few expected Atletico to directly use the €100million the club received for Griezmann to bring in a youngster who’s untested away from his homeland. An audacious gamble...
Two goals across 12 games leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Felix's sprained ankle didn’t help, either. He was out injured for a month. Simeone felt the striker would be rejuvenated, both recovering and through ageing, re-booting him back into the squad for the last three games. Zero goals came from the 171 minutes spent on the pitch makes for very limited success.
By comparison, the man who made the void endured his troubles after moving to Barcelona, scoring three goals in seven games is below the Blaugrana expectation, leading him to sit on the bench.
Fortune favours the strong, whether that’s Barcelona, Ernesto Valverde or Griezmann himself, the Frenchman's new role at the club is now starting to pay off. Since arriving his position has changed from centre-forward to left-wing; as well as serving in a rotation-bench system as opposed to the nailed on 90-minute man who came to the club — personified by opening the scoring with his goal at the weekend in the 5-2 win against RCD Mallorca. It’s working out better for everyone at Barcelona, he’s now categorically doing a better job than Felix - even if he’s still stuttering...
The other Atletico attackers must be brought forward for their shortcomings too. Alvaro Morata, Diego Costa, Vitolo as well as Angel Correa scored ten between themselves. That’s two below Lionel Messi’s goal count. Simeone is continually praised by his ability to man manage, allowing his players to confidently sit back in games – only exerting energy when necessary. The two holding midfielder create sturdy walls around the pre-established four-man defence, which means not only fewer goals for themselves, but the opposition too. These tactics resulted in Atletico Madrid notching up several low scoring games as well as a few bore draws, including last weekend away to Villarreal.
The problem is neither Felix or his offensive teammates are performing at the level expected. Nine games in, the best teams already established their goal threats. Real Madrid boast Karim Benzema, Deportivo Alvaes employ Lucas Perez, Barcelona has Messi, Luis Suarez and even Griezmann. Atletico does not hold an attacking force. Nobody is scoring consistently, with a lacklustre 16 goals scored across 16 games played, they sit in seventh place which is way below expectations.
Simeone must find a way to get somebody scoring to change their fortunes, to ensure qualification from a dicey end to the Champions League group. Lokomotiv Moscow will fight for any hope to earn Europa League football whereas Bayer Leverkusen could oust Atletico if they get a result at home against an already qualified Juventus. Following which comes another tricky game at home against Osasuna, who’ve scored more, especially on the road, with six goals in their last three away days. The attackers must produce the goods here to prosper and win these games.